Life on a Blue Ridge Farm – The Picture

There was a picture on my bedroom wall, a panorama that was never the same. A visual masterpiece that sometimes filled me with wonder, dread, tranquility and adventure. A vision that portrayed everything from the bright sunrise to the blackest night. Rainbows, snowbanks, the never-static patterns of grass swayed by the wind.  A not-so-still life of the creek I played in and the distant Iron mountain range.

Of course this wasn’t an actual painting or photograph, it was my bedroom window. It was wide, spanning the width of my bed, which was placed beneath this opening to my world.  If the time was right and clouds were scarce, moon-shadows danced across my bedcovers at night and the sun awakened me early summer mornings as it flooded my room with warm light.

To the left of this panorama was one of the farm’s pastures. This was a hilly patch of land and on the crest of the hill stood a barn with it’s attendant silo. This barn served as the storage location for winter feed for the cows. Pasture grass was scarce during the relatively brief winters and healthy, milk producing cows still need a great diet, hence the barn. During the harvest season, part of the gatherings were stored here for easy access. The cows needn’t travel great distances for a good meal and neither did the farmers whose chore was to provide that meal.

From the apex of the hill where the barn stood, the land sloped gently downward to the creek bottom. Along that slope the grass land was interrupted by an outcropping of rocks that refused to surrender to the sweep of green. Apparently the return-on-investment for the cows was too high in this area, sprigs of grass on unsure footing kept the cows on easier-grazing sections. Since the eating machines never frequented this area, tree seedlings had a pretty decent chance of making it, and many did. Over the decades some magnificent trees took root and grew with vigor.

Now this was a whole different country to Mike and I. These rocks and their arboreal canopy could, with mutual agreement, be transformed into a fort, a castle or a last outpost before the treacherous mountains on the distance. Hours were spent in these new lands with discoveries made and battles won and lost. Many a G.I. Joe came to an untimely end or triumphed on these rocks. Often a cool breeze swept up the valley and rustled the leaves above our heads and banished, at least a bit of, the summer heat.

Then there was the creek. We seldom ventured to the creek along this section because the cows got there first, and being cows, made a nasty mess that nothing in the creek could coax us to cross. We were content to simply enjoy the sound it made  as it negotiated rocks and bends.

But then there was this one section of the picture that called to me and drew me to it. Where the hills bowed and the creek ran there was also a “cut” in the Knobs. A place where the local features of the land almost pointed to the mountains in the distance. I wondered endlessly about those mountains. What was there? Did anyone actually live there, or was it too wild? If people did live there, imagine what stories they could tell! I swore that one day, I would venture to those far-away peaks and explore and put to rest those questions. And I did. Years later of course, I discovered that, yes, people did live there and it was not so wild as I had imagined. There were roads that ran through those valleys that I drove and trails that skirted the peaks that I hiked. The wonder and fascination never left, however, and it remains to this day.

The picture on my wall remains in my heart and still draws me, even after half a century.

© 2013, Bruce Denton. All rights reserved.

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